by Sr. Cecily Bourdillon MMM Zimbabwe/Ireland 25.12.2021
Celebrating Christmas on a farm in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) remains for me a very special childhood memory. Christmas, in the middle of Southern Africa, came when the hot, rainy season was converting the dry, brown landscape to a lush green.
We were blessed to have Midnight Mass celebrated in our large living room by a Jesuit priest friend. A few neighbours might join us. Missed hours of sleep were made up in the morning – Christmas Day!
Then it was time to prepare for our Nativity Play. We were seven children directed by Mother who wrote the script and made the costumes. We had been practising our parts many days before the Big Day. I was Mary and my eldest brother was the Angel Gabriel, requesting Mary’s response to God’s invitation to be the Mother of God. He then changed into the attire of St. Joseph.
My little sister and brother were shepherds to whom the Good News of the birth of Our Saviour was announced by the Angel. They then made their way in haste, following the Star, to the stable in Bethlehem. The twins and their younger brother were the Three Wise Men from the East, who, having followed the star, came to adore the new-born King.
As we were dressing and preparing for our play, the farm staff with spouses and children gathered on the lawn in front of the house facing the veranda where the story of Christ’s birth would be enacted. After the play we changed into our Christmas clothes and then assisted our parents in giving Christmas gifts to all gathered.
Then it was the turn of the staff to do their part. They sang and danced. The finale was the children’s dance with their dumbbells which they skilfully clapped, giving beat and rhythm to their dancing.
When the excitement of the morning came to an end and the staff had returned to their homes, we enjoyed a traditional turkey dinner followed by plum pudding and brandy butter. Christmas Day came to an end with the sharing of gifts and relaxing in the joy of being together as family on this special Feast of God’s love made manifest in His Son.